Lancaster and Palmdale had the highest rates of new COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County during a two-week period that ended on Nov. 6, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, who unveiled the top 10 COVID hot spots in the county during a media briefing on Thursday.
Lancaster and Palmdale also have below-average rates of fully vaccinated residents, with Lancaster at 58% and Palmdale at 66%, compared to the countywide vaccination rate of 73%.
“If you’re not vaccinated, you’ve got a much higher risk of ending up infected, ending up in the hospital and tragically passing away. That’s crystal clear and it hasn’t really changed for months now,” Ferrer said.
However, seven of the communities on the top 10 list of highest new-case rates have vaccination rates that exceed the countywide rate, according to the numbers presented by the Department of Public Health. Studio City, with the third- highest new case rate, has a 79% vaccination rate, and Santa Clarita, placing fourth on the list, has a 75% vaccine rate. Ferrer said officials are studying the data to determine what is driving higher case rates in those communities, but she insisted the numbers don’t mean vaccines aren’t effective.
She said current figures show unvaccinated people are nine times more likely than vaccinated people to get infected, and 67 times more likely to be hospitalized.
Ferrer also noted that the median age of people becoming infected ranges from 26 to 36, meaning young people are driving the numbers.
“I will say the one thing that does jump out — the average ages were very low in all these communities,” Ferrer said. “This is, essentially, in the communities with the highest rates, this is a pandemic that is in fact fueled by younger people.”
Given the young median age of infected people, “we know that intermingling both socially and at work sites is contributing,” Ferrer said.
“Whoever you are and wherever you live, whether you live in a community with a high vaccination rate or with not-so-high vaccination rates, the most important thing you as a person are going to need to do is get yourself vaccinated, the people you love vaccinated, and then be sensible about precautions around intermingling while transmission rates remain relatively high across the county,” Ferrer said.
The county reported another 26 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, raising the overall virus-related death toll to 26,949. Another 1,088 cases were reported, giving the county a cumulative pandemic total of 1,515,324. The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 1.1% as of Thursday.
According to state figures, there were 611 COVID-positive patients being treated in county hospitals as of Thursday, down from 616 on Wednesday. Of those hospitalized, 148 were in intensive care, down from 155. Ferrer said 82% of county residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, and 73% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s overall population of 10.3 million people, 71% have received at least one dose, and 63% are fully vaccinated.
Ferrer said the number of people who received a first dose of vaccine in the past week jumped up sharply, due primarily to the expansion of vaccine availability to include children aged 5-11. Black residents continue to have the lowest vaccination rates, at 54%, followed by Latina/o residents at 59%, whites at 72% and Asians at 80%. Of the roughly 5.99 million residents who were fully vaccinated as of Nov. 16, 75,249 have subsequently tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 1.26%, Ferrer said. Of the vaccinated population, 2,528 have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.042%, and 422 have died, a rate of 0.007%.
Ferrer noted that the county has not seen a spike in COVID infections following Halloween, unlike the situation last year when cases began rising sharply. She said she is hopeful that residents will continue to exercise caution over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
“We will need to take a cautionary note from what we’re currently seeing in other parts of the United States and in other parts of the world right now,” Ferrer said. “In the Mountain West and throughout Europe, cases are rising and hospitals are once more flooded with COVID cases, almost all of them among unvaccinated people. These trends remind us that the virus is much more easily transmitted when people are indoors and intermingling without protection from vaccines and other mitigation measures.”